“Last Ride Together” - Critical Appreciation
Robert Browning’s “Last Ride Together” is a monologue of a rejected lover that expresses his undying love for his beloved. The dramatic situation appears to be one in which the lover, upon being rejected by his mistress, asks for, and is granted, one last horseback ride with her across a mysterious landscape. The ride, however, seems to stretch out to eternity; there is no sense of time demarcation, but a continuous unfurling of landscape. The poem echoes the ‘carpe diem’ motif of seizing the present.
The poet dwells on the significance of the present as he concentrates on the ride. He contemplates on why people attach so much significance to the past and future, than focusing on the present. His soul that was hitherto a long “scramped scroll ” smoothens itself out .The metaphor connotes living life to the fullest in elation and ecstasy for the moment. The scroll freshens and flutters in the wind in intense euphoria. Why does one get carried away by past actions:
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Why do people leave room for doubts, suspicions, failure, misgivings that haunt the present instead of protecting it, and distracting the same? One should breathe each moment as though there is no room for regret. “The Last Ride Together” makes profound statements concerning the irrelevance of the past in relation to present emotions and sentiments. More specifically, Browning discusses hopes that have not been fulfilled, and places them in direct contrast to present circumstances. By revealing the idea that sentiments and events of the past often have little effect on future outcomes, Browning suggests that life should not involve dwelling on the past or hoping for the future, but living in the moment.
The lover as he rides with his beloved continues to think about the world. He says that brain and hand cannot go together hand in hand. Conception and execution can never be paired together. Man is not able to make pace with his actions to match with his ambitions. He plans a lot but achieves a little. The lover feels that he has at least achieved a little success by being able to ride with his beloved. He compares himself with a statesman and a soldier. A statesman works hard all his life but all his efforts are merely published in a book or as an obituary in newspapers. Similarly a soldier dies fighting for his country and is buried in the Westminster Abbey, which is his only reward after death. Sometimes an epitaph is raised in his memory but that is all. The lover then compares his lot with that of a poet. He believes that a poet’s reward is too small compared with his skills. He composed sweet lyrics, thoughts of emotions of others, views that men should achieve beautiful things in life. But the reward he gets in return is very little and he dies in poverty in the prime of his life. Compared to the poet, the lover considers himself luckier as he has at least achieved the consolation of riding with his lover for the last time. The lover thinks that it would be a heaven on earth for him if he continues to ride with his beloved forever. He wishes that the moment should become everlasting so that they could continue to ride together forever and ever. That would indeed be heavenly bliss for him.
Thus through this poem, Browning expresses the view that, the past is insignificant, and that one may only live in the moment in order to pursue happiness in life. "The Last Ride Together" indicates that life is a long journey that is best played out with a special love. Seeing every day as one’s last can really put a new perspective on everyday experiences and life in general. The juxtapositions of city and ruins, hope for love and a last ride together, both illustrate this idea dramatically. One can learn not to look back on what one hoped for, but only to look forward at what one has.